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Two new doctors and more office space for existing Sooke medical clinic

BC Government supporting existing clinic with $1 million per year for five more practitioners

Health Minister Adrian Dix, Premier John Horgan, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, Island Health CEO Kathy McNeil
Announcing expansion of medical services in Sooke, April 26, 2019 (from left): Health Minister Adrian Dix, Premier John Horgan, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, Island Health CEO Kathy McNeil. [West Shore Voice News photo by Mary P Brooke]

Sunday, May 5, 2019

~ by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News

It’s not an urgent primary care centre as have opened in larger communities around BC. And it certainly isn’t the hospital that Sooke residents for decades have been asking for.

But it’s a “made in Sooke” solution that suits the needs of the community and current health clinic which is owned and operated by local doctors.

Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Sooke clinic announcement, April 2019
Premier John Horgan and Adrian Dix announcing expansion supports for the existing West Coast Family Medical Clinic in Sooke, including an annual $1 million to cover five more salaries (2 doctors, 1 NP, 2 RNs). West Shore Voice News photo ~ Mary P Brooke

In that context, Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix were pleased to announce annual funding of $1 million to pay for two more doctors at the existing West Coast Family Medical Clinic at the Evergreen Shopping Centre in Sooke, as well as bringing on a Nurse Practitioner (NP) and two Registered Nurses (RNs).

The added health care professional complement is expected to help the clinic take in 4,000 more patients that are not already “attached to a family doctor”. It is currently staffed by nine doctors, registered dietician, registered social worker, RN, medical office assistants and administrative support staff.

West Coast Family Medical Clinic, Sooke
West Coast Family Medical Clinic at the Evergreen Shopping Centre in Sooke will get premises expansion and two new doctors, funded by the BC government [West Shore Voice News photo]

The BC Government will also take care of costs to renovate the current premise at 1300-6660 Sooke Road that will see expansion into the adjacent space that is currently occupied by an H&R Block service.

“This is the way of the future,” said Premier Horgan, referring to how this solution fit the current scenario of a doctor-owned clinic, with ideas and consultation coming from within the community. The existing clinic will keep operating while renovations get underway in June 2019.

“This is the simplest and most efficient way to do it,” said Dix. He says distinct solutions are found for each community, but with the same values of team-based care. Horgan says this is the way of the 21st-century: “You don’t always need to visit a GP to get good health care.”

Horgan added that the previous government’s A GP for Me program (2013 to March 31, 2016) failed badly in meeting the promise of a doctor for everyone in BC. That program was based on training more doctors, which is costly and takes a long time, and did not necessarily provide GP care in the communities where needed.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said “the doctors (at West Coast Family Medical Clinic) were at the heart of this”. She told the crowd she hopes to see wait lists reduced or eliminated, adding that the clinic will serve both Sooke residents and “our Juan de Fuca neighbours”.

There was no mention of improving x-ray services within Sooke, something that presently still requires a trip to Langford or to Victoria General Hospital beyond that.

Doctors from the local clinic were invited to take part in Horgan’s announcement but declined, citing the need to be at the clinic taking care of the heavy weekday patient load.

Both Horgan and Tait indicated that there’s more to come. There’s word that a newer clinic and a pharmacy might be located in the front section of the mall (where mall owner Skyline REIT has been working to find tenants who can take advantage of the Sooke Road frontage in that section of the mall where a fire destroyed the oldest part of the mall in July 2013).

Premier John Horgan, Brenda Parkinson, West Shore Voice News photo, April 26 2019
Premier John Horgan greeted Sooke Councillor Brenda Parkinson (who recently announced a cancer diagnosis) at the health clinic expansion announcement on April 26, 2019 in Sooke. [West Shore Voice News photo]

The demand for health care at new clinics popping up around BC is strong (they’re in Prince George, Kamloops, Langford, Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Nanaimo and Quesnel). The eight urgent and primary care centres have served over 25,000 patients since the first one opened August 27, 2018. Dix sees a weekly list of the number of visits to each clinic.

The West Shore Urgent Primary Care Centre that opened its doors in Langford on November 5, 2018 is consistently at the top of the list. With 380 visits per week and a total of 7,600 patients newly attached to a family doctor “it’s the most successful clinic in BC,” said Dix. “It makes a difference every single week,” said a clearly pleased health minister.

Friday’s announcement was attended by about 70 people including all six District of Sooke councillors (Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson, Tony St-Pierre), Island Health reps, BC government staff, Sooke Deputy Fire Chief Matt Barney, Juan de Fuca Director Mike Hicks, and media from local, regional and TV outlets.

Leah Hollins, Island Health
Island Health Chair Leah Hollins at the January 31, 2019 board meeting [West Shore Voice News photo]

Not in attendance, but providing a supportive comment, Island Health Chair Leah Hollins said: “We are delighted about this partnership. An expanded medical clinic in Sooke will serve as an important part of the network of care for people in that area.”

Board chair of the South Island Division of Family Practice, Dr Vanessa Young, said: “The South Island division of Family Practice Board supports the expansion of the West Coast Family Medical Clinic through the collaborative primary care network planning process.”

Dr Anton Rabien

One of the physician-owners of the West Coast Family Medical Clinic, Dr Anton Rabien, said: “We look forward to adding allied health providers to our care team and expanding our clinic as part of our ongoing collaboration with Island Health and the Ministry of Health. We are excited to continue our transformation toward team-based primary care, as we believe these changes will not only ensure the citizens of our growing community can continue to access the quality care they need and deserve, but will also help us to recruit new family physicians to Sooke.”


This article was first published in a more condensed version on page 5 in the April 26/May 3, 2019 combo edition of the West Shore Voice News weekend digest.